3/7/2010 - Calvary Emerald Coast, Fort Walton Beach, FL.
"KINGDOMS IN CONFLICT"
This was a very uplifting Sunday which exposed me to a number of new experiences. First, this non-denominational church was sited slap in the middle of a shopping plaza. The rather understated exterior belied a gigantic internal worship space with the largest entry foyer I'd visited to date. The "Altar" had the band-entertainment accoutrements typical of these newer evangelical congregations, and while there were no kneelers in front of the individual "office chairs" arranged in rows for the parishioners, there was a cross-motif at the front on the pastor's lectern and Communion was passed around as Bread & Wine on "silver trays." The music was modern, but included a recognizable rendition of "Amazing Grace." No offering was taken up and I forgot to look for the basket in the foyer upon my exit. Folks were friendly during the "Meet 'n Greet" segment and the Pastor was animated, personable, down-to-earth, humorous and obviously a quick study.
There was no steeple, nor free-standing sign on the exterior; the church had a unique associated Coffee-Shop in a nearby store-front, reputed to provide free refreshments and featuring a large-screen T.V. link to the worship area from which vantage point parishioners could snack and watch the service. Everyone, including the pastor was dressed casually and there were few older parishioners evident at the service I attended starting around 10:30 AM.
This was a truly contemporary setting and got me to thinking that it was an absolutely inspired insight: If The "Text-Message" Generation is drifting away from The Message of the more traditional churches with their conservative facades, organ music and old hymns ~ then what better solution than to seek them in THEIR usual environment at the shopping mall, and provide them with the entertainment, plus the electronic and fast-food milieu to which they are acclimated?
I'll show you a few photos of the Coffee Shop and then we'll read the message.
KINGDOMS IN CONFLICT: Pastor James Flanders started with the point, derived from 1st John, that it's not as important that we love God as that God loves us (1 John 4:10); and that He sent His Son to pay the price for our sins (1 John 4:9). Moreover God has work for us to do and he wants to have us stay strong in the face of the enemy. Pastor confirmed that he had been lecturing for a number of weeks about living the life that God has called us to.
We are on a mission undertaking a commission from Jesus, just as He instructed His first disciples ~ to make more disciples and convert them to the way of Love; to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt 19:19 & 22:39 ) so that The Kingdom may manifest.
Jesus was living under a corrupt government, under the oppressive hand of the Roman Empire. Could this be similar to anything we now experience? But even under these difficult circumstances, Jesus introduced the solution of "turning the other cheek." He practiced a life of Love that refutes and exposes The Darkness for what it truly is. This is difficult for us. Ultimately our physical imperfections will be healed and we will also be relieved of our sins. But meantime The Natural Man is at war with the spirit and it is difficult for him to receive Jesus' message of Love & Peace.
But always remember that your true adversary is Satan. The evil Satan is a roaring lion and a thief. To overcome him you need protection.
You need the appropriate armor to defeat Satan. (Ephesians 6:10-18). Paul, writing from prison where he was locked up for preaching The Gospel, calls us to be strong in the Lord, to put on the whole armor of God, and stand against the wiles of The Enemy. But we must always remember that our enemy is not flesh & blood; rather we are fighting against an unseen enemy in the spiritual realm. His name is Satan. Therefore take up the whole armor of God and stand against the enemy. Do NOT run away, but stand firm! (Here Pastor gave personal testimony about wanting to run away from the Florida Panhandle, back to Arizona, due to life challenges when he first moved here. But ultimately he stood firm against the enemy and God has rewarded him mightily for his fortitude).
So we too must "Stand" firm in a pro-active way. Standing is not about inactivity. It's about resistance ... and action. Pastor said he was tired of seeing Believers "getting their butts kicked!" due to not standing firm.
To overcome the evil one we must first put on "The Belt of Truth." (Ephesians 6:14). The Romans placed important defensive items on their warriors' belts and so must we: We must don "The Belt of Truth" for that purpose.
But what is "Truth?"
Truth is the actual state of the matter. And we must base our defensive actions on this truth rather than upon our opinions and emotions. We are human beings in conflict with spiritual evil, getting "pounded on the head." But our response must be based on truth. (Ephesians 6:14).
We must also, like the Romans, not only don The Belt (of Truth), but protect our upper body with armor. And notice that the Roman body-armor had no protection in the back! That's because the warrior ~ you ~ is not supposed to turn and run! You must stand firm. This type of breast-plate armor protects not only the heart BUT ALSO THE GUTS. Because you experience a lot of severe emotional conflict right there in the Pit of The Stomach; in The Guts. So remember that you are part of the body of God and as such you need spiritual armor; Paul compares physical armor to spiritual armor.
A thief destroys (John 10:10), while Jesus Christ comes to provide a more abundant life; not necessarily with regard to material stuff. Of course you get your food & clothing. But "Abundant Life" means more than this ~ in a spiritual sense. Generally humans experience distress in both the Heart AND THE GUTS. Abundant Life provides protection from both those problems. Abundant life means Peace, Joy & Contentment. So don't focus on material "Stuff" in this context. Rather seek abundant life.
And also consider "Value" & "Worth."
What are things worth? ... How much are you worth? What will someone pay for you? Well, God paid for you with His blood, His life - His everything! That's how much you are worth. You are priceless; and you need to know your worth so as to be able to go out into the world and make a difference. You first need to know who you are and what you are worth. Or else you'll be defeated.
Remember when the devil "beat the snot" out of the seven brothers? It was because they didn't know who they were and the devil didn't know, nor respect them either.
If anyone is in Christ, they're a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17). Many of us humans don't feel like a new creation - But what's The Truth? If you are a Believer your identity has changed and you are a new creation. Give it time. Fruit needs time to grow and ripen. Behold all things have become new. In Christ you are a new creation - NEW! Do you believe it? That TRUTH must get into your heart.
All things are of God. God has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:18). That means "restore to friendship ... harmony," "Make us compatible." Who did that work? NOT you. God did, through Jesus Christ. Now we have a ministry of reconciliation.
God was at work in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. Not imputing their trespasses (sins) to them; for all our sins, as believers, are taken away. (2 Corinthians 5:19)
We are therefore Christ's Ambassadors (authorized representative or messenger). God is working through us. (2 Corinthians 5:20).
"He made Him who knew no sin, sin for us." (2 Corinthians 5:21). IF YOU DON'T KNOW THIS YOU WILL BE GOING OUT NAKED INTO BATTLE! Without your armor. Now, regarding your worth: How does God see you. He sees you as priceless and perfect. (Ie., "SAVED"). Now obviously you cannot save yourself. But Jesus did, He became sin for us. Our sin was nailed to the cross! Therefore all our sins were forgiven.
Our sins were forgiven so that we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21). Here we must understand the meaning of "might." It's like "Hope." Hope in Biblical terms means "certainty." Similarly, "might" does not mean "possibility," it refers to certainty. So when we become the righteousness of God, God sees us as wholly blameless and above reproach. God sees us as the "Absolute Perfection," just like He sees Jesus. ~ Perfectly Righteous.
Therefore, in the fight against Satan, first put on the breastplate of the righteousness of God, held up by the Belt of Truth and you will prevail over The Evil One. [Later we'll talk about other protective accoutrements such as the Shield of Faith! (Ephesians 6:16); also the shoes of the Gospel of Faith (Ephesians 6:16); the helmet of Salvation & the Sword of the Spirit (ie., The Precise Biblical Word ~ Ephesians 6:17)].
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Pd. Pol. Adv., paid for and approved by Dr. Bill Escoffery,
Candidate for U.S. Senate from Florida.
Copyright © 2010 by William Escoffery III. All